Philippine soldiers in Datu Saudi town, Maguindanao province (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Philippine soldiers backed by armoured vehicles have retaken a southern town held for 12 hours by pro-Islamic State (IS) militants, the army said on July 4.

Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Cabunoc, commander of the army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, said troops pursued militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group, who retreated to the hills after trying to occupy the town of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao province.

He added that the military will continue to “disrupt the BIFF's plan to sow terror into communities” in the south.

The clashes followed warnings by President Rodrigo Duterte that remnants of pro-Islamic State militant groups had been still recruiting and planning attacks on several southern cities to set up an independent and separate Islamic state.

Two weeks ago, the Philippine army launched offensives against BIFF in Liguasan Marsh in North Cotabato and Maguindanao on Midanao Island, southern Philippines.

BIFF is a splinter group of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front and has up to 400 members. It is among the several militant groups in Mindanao that pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State a few years ago. They are active in the central Mindanao area, especially in Cotabato city, as well as the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.-VNA